Board OKs funds to begin radio transition

The Columbia City Board of Works and Safety discussed the transition to 800 megahertz (MHz) communications by public safety personnel at its weekly meeting Friday.According to Terry Wherry, Columbia City Director of Communications, the county police, dispatchers and emergency personnel are converting to 800 MHz systems Monday.For Columbia City personnel, the transition will begin with the purchase of a base unit and a cross-band box located in the communications office costing $71,444.The board approved the expenditure and will recommend to the Columbia City Common Council that the money be appropriated from the city’s Rainy Day Fund, an account where the city can put all or a portion of any surplus money from previous budgets.“It’s like a savings account,” said Mayor Jim Fleck.Eventually, the 800 MHz radios will be purchased for other city public safety entities such as police and firemen.The cross-band box is a device that allows translation between the 800 MHz systems and the current VHF system, which operates from 150-174 MHz.According to Adam Hurley of J&K Communications in Columbia City, the city police do have a handful of handheld units which were purchased with grant money.The radios were part of the same grant that purchased the equipment being used starting Monday by county sheriff’s department personnel as well as the police departments of South Whitley and Churubusco.“The advantage of the 800 MHz system is interoperability,” said Hurley.Hurley explained that since the state has a network statewide, it would allow anyone with an 800 MHz radio traveling outside the area on city or county business to communicate back to Whitley County.He added that it would enable better communication between not only city and county personnel, but also state departments such as Department of Natural Resources and Indiana State Police.In other business, City Police Chief Michael Petersen reported to the board the final tally for the price of two police cars being purchased for his department.According to Petersen, three vehicles will be traded in for a total trade-in of $8,500.The two new vehicles will be Dodge Chargers with a total price tag, including a “state-bid” discount and the value of the trade-ins, of $41,209.40.